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Vandebilt's Harding signs scholarship with Hutchinson Community College

Former Vandebilt Catholic player Shakira Harding is headed to Hutchinson Community College to play basketball. (Photo by File photo)

Just a month ago, former Vandebilt Catholic girls’ basketball standout Shakira Harding said she didn’t imagine signing with a junior college in Kansas.

Harding, a 2013 Vandebilt graduate, received an offer to play at Louisiana Tech University, but when the scholarship fell through before she could sign it, she said her recruitment process opened up again.

After looking at several other small colleges, Harding said she decided to sign an offer to play college basketball at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kan.

Harding, who is academically qualified to attend any Division I college, said she originally planned to attend Louisiana Tech after making a visit and receiving a offer earlier this year, but she said the school later told her there were no more scholarships available to give her. After Louisiana Tech fell through, she got an offer from Xavier University of New Orleans and even considered attending LSU as a student and walk-on for the Lady Tigers basketball team.

But when Hutchinson Community College gave her an offer, Harding said it was too good to pass up. 

“I really did not have them in mind at all,” Harding said. “Since things kind of didn’t go right with Louisiana Tech, I guess word got out I wasn’t signing with them. A couple of colleges started calling, and Hutchinson had my interest because they were a top team in the nation last year.”

Harding, a guard, was a key basketball player during her prep days at Vandebilt. In her senior year, she averaged 12.5 points, three steals, two rebounds and two assists a game in leading a balanced Lady Terriers attack. She was a Class 4A all-state first-team selection, a member of the All-State academic team and honors graduate at Vandebilt, the MVP of 2013 The Courier/Daily Comet All-Region girls basketball team and a participant of the LHSBCA Girls All-Star game in Shreveport in March.

Harding will join a Hutchinson women’s basketball program that finished as a national runner-up in 2012 and a third-place team earlier this year at the NJCAA national basketball tournament. Hutchinson had a 36-2 record this year, and it has a 72-3 overall mark in the last two seasons. Hutchinson is known for sending its players to bigger Division I programs.

While she was disappointed in not going to Louisiana Tech, Harding said she is excited about the chance to continue her basketball career and prepare for a jump to a bigger four-year school. She plans to major in biology/pre-dentistry and attend medical school to become a dentist.

“(Hutchinson) has lots of good recognition, a winning program and a great coaching staff, so I feel very comfortable with my decision,” Harding said. “Going to junior college is going to open up my opportunity to go places I never even imagined.”

Former Vandebilt coach Kathy Luke said Harding, a qualifier, could move to a major Division I four-year school immediately after playing one year of JUCO, so she encouraged her former player not to be disappointed about missing out on Louisiana Tech.

“Things happen for a reason, and I told her God has a better plan for you,” Luke said. “Hopefully in the next couple of years, she will see what that plan is all about. She is really going to one of the top junior colleges in the country. Playing in JUCO ranks, especially at a school that is well-known like Hutchinson, will give her an opportunity to get a Division I offer.”

Harding said she expects to play shooting guard at Hutchinson, but she is prepared to play as a point guard as well. Luke said Harding is capable of being a great player on the college level, and she showed her skills during her junior season at Vandebilt, when she had to step up and play as a point guard for the first time ever after teammate Laci LeBlanc suffered a season-ending knee injury last year.

“That’s tough, in your junior year, to move into a totally different position, especially running a team,” Luke said. “Shakira at that point wasn’t very vocal. Not only did she step up physically as an upperclassmen, but mentally she had to understand exactly what I wanted on the floor. She was an extension of me. She did a great job. I think a lot of people noticed her when she got to play the point. She took ownership of the team and became more vocal as a leader. Her fundamentals and speed are good. She can handle the ball, pass it, take it to the rim and shoot the 3-ball.”

Harding, who is the daughter of former NFL/CFL player Gregory Harding and Sharon Picou, thanked everyone for their support over the years.

“I would like to thank anyone who has ever supported me in anything I’ve ever done,” she said. “There are a lot of people who have helped me be who I am today, whether it be old elementary school teachers, old volleyball or softball coaches or people in the community. I’m so grateful for that. I thank God I have people around me who believe in me and are proud of what I do.”